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The Northern Reach
by W.S. Winslow
Blog Tour Review

Tea, flowers and an open book on a table in the garden - Used to feature my book reviews

My thanks go out to the lovely Claire, representing publisher Flatiron Books, for offering me a spot on this Blog Tour

Another big thank you also to the NetGalley team, for yet another seamless download

Cover image of the book 'The Northern Reach' by author W.S. Winslow

THE NORTHERN REACH

Cover image of the book 'The Northern Reach' by author W.S. WinslowA heart-wrenching first novel about the power of place and family ties, the weight of the stories we choose to tell, and the burden of those we hide

Frozen in grief after the loss of her son at sea, Edith Baines stares across the water at a schooner, under full sail yet motionless in the winter wind and surging tide of the Northern Reach. Edith seems to be hallucinating. Or is she? Edith’s boat-watch opens The Northern Reach, set in the coastal town of Wellbridge, Maine, where townspeople squeeze a living from the perilous bay or scrape by on the largesse of the summer folk and whatever they can cobble together, salvage, or grab.

At the center of town life is the Baines family, land-rich, cash-poor descendants of town founders, along with the ne’er-do-well Moody clan, the Martins of Skunk Pond, and the dirt farming, bootlegging Edgecombs.

Over the course of the twentieth century, the families intersect, interact, and intermarry, grappling with secrets and prejudices that span generations, opening new wounds and reckoning with old ghosts.

Cover image of the book 'The Northern Reach' by author W.S. Winslow

W.S. WINSLOW

Photograph Credit To Jeff Roberts

Image of author W.S. Winslow - Picture credit to Jeff RobertsW.S. Winslow was born and raised in Maine, but spent most of her working life in San Francisco and New York in corporate communications and marketing.

A ninth-generation Mainer, she now spends most of the year in a small town Downeast.

She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in French from the University of Maine, and an MFA from NYU.

Her fiction has been published in Yemassee Journal and Bird’s Thumb.

The Northern Reach is her debut novel.

Keep up to date with all the author’s news at her website

Follow the author on Twitter

Cover image of the book 'The Northern Reach' by author W.S. Winslow

FIRST LINES

1977MOTHER SHIP

“Edith Baines stares out the living room window at the schooner on the far side of the Northern Reach. It’s a traditional boat, maybe eighty feet, gaff-rigged with raked masts and some kind of carving on the prow, but in the inky light of the late afternoon she can’t make it out. The funny thing is, even though both the mainsail and the mizzen are raised, the boat isn’t moving. She squints but can’t see an anchor line, or even a buoy through the spitting snow. The current, she knows, is too strong for a mooring over there. Why doesn’t the boat drift? Where does it come from? Where is the crew? The questions itch unmercifully in her brain”

Cover image of the book 'The Northern Reach' by author W.S. Winslow

MEMORABLE LINES

“Above the reach, low clouds sleepwalk across the February sky. Today they are fibrous, striated, like flesh being slowly torn from bone. It’s four in the afternoon and already night has started chewing away the edges of the day. This is winter’s waking death: half-light, refracted by gray water and dirty snow, begging the voracious dark to end its misery”

.

“It’s the lies that hold people together, she believes, the things we never say, the false faces that mask ugly truths”

.

“The minutes ticked on, and Alice listened as her children shared stories and swapped reminiscences so that, one finger at a time, they let her go, and as they did, the smoky fetters loosened and untangled themselves. Alice lingered just long enough to gather up all the things she should have known, and with her last thought, she gave herself over to the smoke, blended with it, became it, wafting, whisper, wisp, gone”

Cover image of the book 'The Northern Reach' by author W.S. Winslow

REVIEW

“Grant the unburied eternal rest”

Mmm! I’m not really too sure where to begin with rationalising my thoughts about this book. I really do believe that this is one of those stories which takes every reader on an individual journey, whereby each of us will probably have one or two unique ‘stand out’ characters and moments that will stick with us for some time after the final page has been read. I know I have!

Likewise, it is also quite difficult to pigeon-hole the book into a specific genre. Personally, for me this is very much a work of literary and cultural fiction, as it is definitely all about the essence of the characters and a sense of time and place, rather than any earth-shatteringly, fast-paced frenetic plot; making it for me, a profoundly moving and often heart-wrenching reading experience, definitely giving this book great merit as a breath-taking, quality debut novel, by a new author with consummate storytelling skills, who writes beautifully, with great authority, total confidence and, more importantly, authentically and straight from the heart.

There really is no beginning, middle or end to this story. It simply and vividly brought to life, snapshots and milestone moments in time, during the 20th and 21st Centuries, featuring and bringing into focus, intricate and detailed vignettes of the people, the places and the unfolding events. Whilst passing mention is made of other areas and countries and even continents, this small, insular, waterfront corner of Maine, New England, is the central showcase and pivotal focus, of this sprawling generational family saga.

When I say ‘family’ saga, that is to say that the author has expertly and seamlessly constructed and woven together, a multi-layered menagerie of three or four predominant families, who over the course of time have intermarried, interbred, loved, fought, divorced, separated, lied and died, so that even with the help of mini family trees at the beginning of each chapter, it got to the stage where I couldn’t remember just who was related to whom and what their place was in this sprawling dynasty of dysfunction, disagreement, distrust, scandal, resentment and self-destruction.

This wonderfully textured, slowly unfolding story, was all about the compelling blend of words and visuality in the narrative and dialogue, between the members of these unconventional, complex and multi-faceted characters, who were really almost impossible to connect with, apart from at a very superficial level and who were definitely not investable as an engaging community, no matter at whose window in time the spotlight shone. Actions (usually fists) often cruel, spoke louder than words and whilst much of this blame could be laid at the door of ignorance, ill-breeding and familial connections, there also needs to be some allowance made for the conditions of this wasteland landscape they found themselves slave to. From the clandestine Ku Klux Klan to the inevitability of the bootleg black-market; from land rich cash poor dirt farming to the dangers and trials of a life pitted against the sea, stoicism binds them all together. Dark times and even darker thoughts are all-pervading, between characters who seem unable to share the same space and air together, yet can’t seem to live without one another. Together they are troubled, but alone they are lost and lonely souls.

In all fairness, many from the later generations, afforded some degree of education, did try to make good their escape from the clutches of this barren swathe of land, however as if lured by some seductive siren, or fastened by some invisible thread to their past and the struggles and complex experiences which had helped to shape them, they kept returning to Wellbridge’s bleak and brutal shores, where the ghosts of the past still held sway over the destiny of the living.

Image of author W.S. Winslow - Picture credit to Jeff Roberts

A complimentary download of this book for review purposes, was made available by Flatiron Books and supplied by NetGalley

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars and a place on my favourites shelf!

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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16 comments
  • I have read or watched many similar stories like this..yet this one seems different at the same time. I tend to like unconventional (not weird 🙂 characters that truly make the book more interesting and fun to read. Thanks!

    • Hi Angie,

      The emphasis of this storyline, both in terms of place and characters, was actually quite narrow and focussed, really making for an intense and concentrated look into the lives and livelihoods of this small and insular community.

      Definitely unconventional as you say, this is a book to be read slowly and savoured, that’s for sure!

      Thanks for stopping by today, I appreciate your support 🙂

    • It’s definitely very visually descriptive, both in characters and location, so great for TripFiction.

      I really think this is one you would enjoy reading for yourself. If you remember how good the Lars Mytting book ‘The Bell In The Lake’ was, this one will make you feel like that for sure!

      Thanks for your continued support, I appreciate it 🙂

  • I don’t know what to say about this book. At the first view it doesn’t seem to have enough to entice me to get it, but I’ve read a couple of books you gave 5 stars and I liked those. Btw, I reviewed the Package a couple of days ago, it was a very interesting book.

    • I don’t know which of my books you might have noticed, which I can compare this one to – ‘The Bell In The Lake’ by lars Mytting – or possibly ‘Betty’ by Tiffany McDaniel?

      I couldn’t read this more in depth, slower paced style of literary fiction all the time, without some lighter interludes. However I do really enjoy good visually descriptive writing, as much as a fast-paced storyline and I really could become invested in this author.

      If you want something altogether more light-hearted, then stop by tomorrow when I shall be reviewing a cozy mystery which gives Agatha Christie a run for her money! 🙂

  • This is a part of the US I’ve not read a lot about and I wouldn’t have expected references to the KKK there! I often enjoy sweeping multi-generational stories, especially when they allow time for good character development.

    I just finished The German Girl (good recommendation!) and I’m currently reading Happily Whatever After.

    • Hi Kelly,

      I must admit that I have never visited this part of the US and if I had been asked to describe what I thought it might be like, I would have instantly thought of the quaint ‘Cabot Cove’ style Maine setting, from ‘Murder She Wrote’. This is an altogether much harsher and unforgiving landscape, full of characters whose life has been one long struggle against their environment and each other! I really enjoyed the slow paced and ever-unfolding storyline, reflected in the lush narrative and dialogue!

      I am pleased that ‘The German Girl’ was a hit for you, I really became invested in the characters. I hope that ‘Happily Whatever After’ makes you smile, as it is so completely different in style and storyline. If you do enjoy it, I have just finished reading Stewart Lewis’s latest book ‘One Stupid Thing’, which is due for review in early April.

      Thanks for stopping by and I’m pleased that some of my recommendations have been to your liking, I always hold my breath when you are having to spend money to read something you haven’t selected for yourself! 🙂

      • Happily Whatever After is definitely not my typical genre these days and I wasn’t really able to relate to the main character’s life in that part of the country, but….. I thought it was lots of fun to read and really liked the majority of the characters (including Page). I zipped through it in two days if that tells you anything.

        • It was definitely a quick read and whilst I couldn’t relate to some of the characters, I was pleased that Page and her brother got their relationship back on track and that they were there for one anther when it counted.

          I’m pleased that you manged to get some enjoyment from the story and that it wasn’t a complete disaster for you! 🙂

    • I just caught your latest jigsaw post and was quite surprised, as this is a little departure from your usual themes and style. It is so busy and colourful, it must have been great fun to work.

      I have been tempted by Jan van Haasteren puzzles when they have been donated into the charity shop, yet have never actually purchased one and I have no idea why. There is a great one called ‘The Library’ which I am definitely keeping my eye open for.

      Perhaps it is because they in some way remind me of a ‘wasgij’ puzzle, and those I just can’t get my head around!

      Thanks for sharing, you cheered up my evening and made me smile 🙂

      • JVH puzzles are my favorite puzzles to work. If you click on my tag for them, you’ll see that I’ve worked many over the years. I don’t think I worked any of his last year, so it was definitely time! I don’t think I’ve see his “Library” puzzle! I’ll have to look for it!

        I’ve never done a Wasgij puzzles and always felt they looked like a “poor imitation” of a JVH puzzle. Still, I bet they’d be fun to work.

        I’ve just begun a new on that is already challenging me… and I’m only trying to do the border!

          • That’s just so annoying, isn’t it? I always spot them just as I have pushed the ‘submit’ button and it’s too late to take the comment back and amend it! Thank goodness for the edit button on my comments posts 🙂 🙂

        • If you want to see what the JVH “Library” puzzle looks like, Amazon have it on display, it looks like great fun!

          I have just finished a Xmas art jigsaw I found lurking in the back of the cupboard. My board is empty right now and I don’t really feel like starting anything new at the moment!

          Good Luck with your new puzzle, I hate borders! 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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